Coach Milovan Rajevac Must Be Applauded!
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I saw him rudely push aside one of the members of his Ghanaian technical team and was momentarily taken aback. And then I quickly surmised, without any prompting whatsoever, that, indeed, Ghana’s European-looking coach likely shared the same ethnic/cultural and/or nationality as the members of the Serbian national team which the Black Stars had just defeated in their World Cup opening match by a lone goal, secured through a penalty kick when a smart-alecky member of the Beli Orlovi mischievously presumed to be able to readily get away with subtly handling the ball in the 18-yard box.
Perhaps the coach of the opposing team ought to have sat down with his players and briefly lectured them on moving-picture technology in the 21st century. In the most recent twentieth-century past, some of us had painfully and angrily espied Latin-American football wiz-kids like Diego Maradona score against quite well-prepared African teams with their hands and actually get applauded for such theft by both throngs of paying spectators and their FIFA referee!
Anyway, two things occurred to me in the wake of the rude pushing away of Mr. Kwasi Appiah, the Ghanaian assistant coach, by Mr. Rajevac. One had to do with the name of the defeated Serbian national team – the Beli Orlovi. I quickly googled for the meaning of the latter and came up with “White Eagles.” Then the cartographical x-ray of Ghana’s “giant” neighbor flashed through my mind’s eye and I couldn’t stop myself from beaming with that mischievously vengeful smile that one sports shortly after learning about the sweet and sound defeat of one’s most formidable opponent.
Then I decided to translate “Beli Orlovi” into the Queen of England’s staple idiom – and my own as well, at least in literary terms – and coupled the latter with the standard pigmentation of the terrain on which the game of soccer is routinely played. “The Green Eagles!” I heard my mind’s voice scream with coital delight, as it were. “The Green Eagles!” The latter, of course, had a day or two previously been trounced by the Argentines, chaperoned by their swift “hand-scoring” legend: Diego Maradona.
And so it made a quite perfect sense that the Black Stars would also vanquish the “White Eagles” of Serbia. I was also a tad bit amused when in the immediate aftermath of Ghana’s pipping of Serbia (and Montenegro), in the dying minutes of their game, former U.S. soccer star now turned commentator/analyst Alexis Lalas curiously remarked that Ghana was a small country in West Africa which was slightly smaller than the American state of Oregon with a tiny population of 24 million. Quite laughable, because Mr. Lalas also conveniently forgot to add that with a piddling population of just under 4 million, Oregon roughly contains only a sixth of Ghana’s potential pool of human talents. It is also significant to observe, at least in passing, that Serbia (and Montenegro) has a population of just over 10 million.
What the preceding means, of course, is that size matters in discussing the level and quality of human achievements only when the subject of such feats is a “historically underachieving” African continent. And since in both figurative and real terms the quadrennial World Cup has virtually evolved into an objective/scientific template for gauging the psychological and, perhaps, also the cultural advancement of nations, it must stand to reason that Ghana’s marginal “savaging” of Serbia amounts to an epic triumph of phantasmagoric proportions
Obliquely, underneath the foregoing brand of logic is the colonialist mindset of Europe, in general, which appears to routinely deem the European world to have transcended historical time and age into post-history, with Africa largely stuck on the threshold of its emergence into history.
Anyway, ensconced underneath the White and Green Eagle conundrum is the quite tempting personal prediction of the ultimate battle for the World Cup being between Ghana and Argentina. Here again, I googled the meaning of the name of “Country Maradona” and came up with “Silver”; and then, of course, I matched up the latter temporally with The Gold Coast and plausibly determined that in the event of the World Cup finals being fought out between Silver and Gold, the forgone conclusion is apt to see Ghana triumph over Argentina by either a lone goal or two goals to one, depending on how one added up the number of goals scored in the opening matches between Argentina and Nigeria, and then Ghana and Serbia. My only counsel to my fellow countrymen and women is that we discipline ourselves in our exhibition of pride and exuberance as the Black Stars clamber/rappel up the increasingly difficult gradient of Mount World Cup.
For, needless to say, in the past it has been the premature exhibition of exuberance and pride that has witnessed the Stars meteorically tumbling down Mount Everest onto Afajato in almost no time.
Anyway, rather than vacuously huff and puff over Coach Rajevac’s decision not to publicly celebrate the sweet and hard-won victory of the Black Stars over the Beli Orlovi, one just needs to picture a scenario in which an American-trained and Ghanaian-born air-force pilot was instructed by President Obama to drop a nuclear payload on Accra as well as other major Ghanaian towns and cities. I bet only a clinically demented few would feel deeply honored by such misdeed. More likely, that equally salaried pilot would go AWOL and/or even renounce his/her American citizenship.
And so why is it evidently so difficult for some Ghanaians who claim to be intelligent, civilized and well-educated to fathom the same? As our ancient sages observed eons back: “The joke is most pleasant when it is on your neighbor.” In sum, about the only thing that Ghanaians may reasonably expect from Coach Rajevac is that he candidly and professionally perform the job/task for which he was hired. And for two long years now, the Serbian patriot has yet to be legitimately damned for shortchanging the Black Stars. Besides, fat check/salary or not, isn’t it punishing enough to ask the man to sport a neck-tie made out of the colors of Ghana’s national flag and preside over the Sunday massacre of his own people? Come on, folks, use your thinking caps!
To be certain, I would have felt like Judas Iscariot on the night of the execution of Jesus Christ, as I am sure Mr. Rajevac most thoroughly felt. My only qualm regarding the Rajevac-Appiah contretemps is that our Serbian coach could have been more diplomatic and disciplined with his emotions. But then, also, couldn’t Assistant Coach Kwasi Appiah have been equally more sympathetic and at least momentarily subdued in his exuberance?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danqauh Institute (DI) and the author of 21 books, including “Atumpan: Drum-Talk” (iUniverse.com, 2004). E-mail: email@example.com. ###